“We have to give strength and power back to the police. And you're always going to have mistakes made. And you're always going to have bad apples. But you can't let that stop the fact that police have to regain some control of this tremendous crime wave and killing wave that's happening in this country.”
When I was born in 1967, there were 2,989.7 crimes committed, including 6.2 murders, for every 100,000 people in the United States. By time I graduated high school in 1985, in the middle of Reagan’s presidency, the crime rate had increased to 5,207.1, including 8.0 murders. As Obama took his second oath of office in 2013, the crime rate stood at 3,098.6 and the murder rate had fallen to 4.5. Nowhere has these crime reductions been more apparent than in New York City where the murder rate fell from 14.5 in 1990 to 3.3 in 2013. On a national scale, improvements in the violent crime rate continued into 2014.
While Trump supporters may admire him “because he tells the truth,” the crime issue is a perfect example of how his rise is less about his truth telling and more about how he tells his supporters what they want to hear. In this case, he simply ignores the improvements in crime statistics and plays to fear as a reason to dismiss the concerns of Black Lives Matter. While it is true that some cities have seen an increase in murder rates since the beginning of the year, they have not been to the extent that Trump has portrayed. For example, Baltimore has recorded 119 homicides, not “hundreds of killings” There is also not a clear national trend as Los Angeles has recorded 2% fewer murders. Most importantly, it is not even clear if the statistics from this year are outliers or represent a reversal of the long term trend. “It’s a little bit like the stock market. These statistics go up and down...it’s like asking why did the stock market go up 75 points today.”
This campaign strategy is taken directly from the Fox “News” channel playbook. For the past seven years the Roger Ailes propaganda machine has manufactured “facts” by endlessly repeating talking points until they become ingrained as truth in the minds of the Fox Nation. Ignore the fact that Obamacare relies on private health insurance and claim that the President has brought socialized medicine to the United States. We do not have any proof of wrongdoing in Benghazi, but repeated accusations must make Hillary Clinton guilty of something. The migration rate from Mexico has fallen to zero, but our borders are under attack. It took the outsized ego of Trump to show that there are actually limits to how far Fox will go to ignore the truth.
When presenting his immigration proposals, Trump incorrectly stated that birthright citizenship, not economic opportunity, “remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration” and said that he would end this “policy.” When Fox’s Bill O’Reilly confronted the candidate with the fact that the 14th Amendment to the constitution provides citizenship to any person born in the United States, Trump said the constitutionality of the Constitution has “to be tested” and “many lawyers” say “it’s not going to hold up in court.” When given the opportunity to backtrack and instead call for a constitutional amendment, Trump said that this would “take too long and [he] would much rather find out [through the courts] if anchor babies are actually citizens.”
The reaction from the right was swift and, from my position on the political spectrum, very amusing. For example, Michael Savage said the exchange exposed O’Reilly as the “left wing demagogue he has always been” and accused him of being a “left-wing operative.” If this continues, Megyn Kelly may not be the last victim of Trump. This is ironic given the fact that Fox itself help create this monster.